Super Mario 3D Land Review for 3DS

On: 3DS
Super Mario 3D Land screenshot
Super Mario 3D Land screenshot

When you've conquered the galaxy twice, where do you go next? The universe would seem to be the logical step forward, but then Nintendo's mascot - particularly in recent years - has rarely taken the most straightforward route. So rather than expanding outwards, Nintendo has scaled back, bringing its hero into sharper focus. It's a journey into the universe, all right, but instead of drifting through nebulae, arms outstretched, Mario has his feet on familiar ground. It's his universe; the Super Mario Universe.

Plenty has been jettisoned on his journey back from space. Gone is the storytelling bloat of Sunshine and Galaxy. There is no hub world to explore. Downtime is almost non-existent. This is a game precision-tuned for portable play. Nintendo has suggested 3D Land is the hamburger to Galaxy's gourmet feast, but it's more a tray of delicious canapés with no two bites entirely the same.

The streamlined approach is understandable. His recent 3D adventures have seen Mario bounding ahead, leaving some of his audience behind. For all Galaxy's persistent inventiveness and sheer visual brio, not everyone could get to grips with the spherical planetoids and gravitational shifts. Little wonder many stuck with the familiar comforts of New Super Mario Bros. instead. So 3D Land is Mario extending a white glove behind him, hanging back for others to catch up, as if to say "hey, I'll wait."

Initially, it feels like a step backwards. Mario's moveset is that of his 2D counterpart rather than the nippier version from Galaxy, Sunshine and 64. He's guided with the circle pad, trotting around slowly unless you hold Y to make him run. There is no triple jump, and his backflip has to be charged. This is a Mario seemingly designed for side-scrolling environments, the Mario of his original NES adventures, except now he's in a 3D world. It takes a little getting used to.

Super Mario 3D Land screenshot

And it's not the only nod to Mario's past. The Tanooki suit from Super Mario Bros. 3 returns, while each level finishes with a familiar leap to the flagpole, and a 1UP reward should you grab the very top. A timer ticks down in the top-right, generous enough to allow for a few brief exploratory forays off the beaten track, while a hit from an enemy turns our hero into his squat, squeaking non-Super form.

But if it pays tribute to everything Mario was, Nintendo isn't about to forget what he's become. The levels may not be as expansive as Galaxy's, but they're equally inventive, shifting perspectives from side-on to top-down, with isometric interludes in between. Each holds myriad secrets, from brief mini-games to earn coins or power-ups to starman sprints above the clouds, with applause sounding if you defeat every enemy before Mario's invincibility wears off.

There's a variation on Galaxy's comet medals, except here there are three to collect, often requiring smart use of power-ups or wall-jumps to reach. It's here you're reminded that Galaxy's spin jump offered a second chance to redeem mistimed leaps, allowing you to be a little sloppy. There's no get-out-of-fail-free card here, and 3D Land's more exacting challenges in the later game enforce precision platforming.

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9 Comments

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Darkr8zor's Avatar

Darkr8zor

This does make me feel keen
Posted 22:36 on 10 November 2011
87Sarah's Avatar

87Sarah

This review and the article on the Zelda 3DS have really made me think that I probably want one.

Great read Chris. :)
Posted 17:50 on 10 November 2011
Wido's Avatar

Wido

Awesome review.

Getting paid tomorrow so I'll be picking up a 3DS tomorrow (hopefully). Will be getting Zelda SS next week and looks like this as well!
Posted 17:16 on 10 November 2011
Woffls's Avatar

Woffls

Quote:
Elsewhere, you'll encounter optical illusions, rooms where platform positions can only be effectively determined with the slider pushed upwards.
This is what I've was expecting from 3DS, and it's not even remotely surprising that Mario 3D is the game to do it.

I will probably get this day one, but whether I play it much this month is another question. I'm going on a cruise for Christmas so that's probably a good time.
Posted 11:22 on 10 November 2011
Vroom's Avatar

Vroom

Lovely review VG.
Posted 10:21 on 10 November 2011
dav2612's Avatar

dav2612

I'd already pre-ordered but really looking forward to it now.
Posted 08:56 on 10 November 2011
CheekyLee's Avatar

CheekyLee

Lovely review, converted my "Probably gonna buy it" to a "Get it day 1", and summarily posted it into Facebook and Twitter so all my friends can learn about it too!
Posted 08:20 on 10 November 2011
pblive's Avatar

pblive

Great review Chris. I'm really excited for the game now.

@MJTH - It's out in Japan now and here on 18th.
Posted 08:14 on 10 November 2011
MJTH's Avatar

MJTH

Great review VG, although slightly earlier out then I would of thought, when does this game come out anyway, I thought it was the 18th November, but then this review would be really early then. Still I'm not complaining! :)
Posted 07:48 on 10 November 2011

Game Stats

Super Mario 3D Land
9
Out of 10
Super Mario 3D Land
  • As ever, a joy to control
  • Superb use of 3D
  • Bursting with secrets and ideas
  • A little too easy to reach the credits
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 18/11/2011
Platform: 3DS
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Platformer
Rating: PEGI 3+
Site Rank: 1,155 56
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